Through a very fortunate circumstance, I was recently admitted to the ever-growing community of BlackBerry users. Owning a BlackBerry is a wonderful feeling -- it's like having the Internet in your pocket, wherever you go.
At any point in time, you can check your mail (both work and gmail), read your feeds, check your calendar, instant message someone, navigate yourself on a map, check the weather, glance at the New York Times headlines, go to a website, set your alarm clock, listen to music or podcasts or watch video, read e-books, play BrickBreaker, calculate useless things, make phone calls, and play with the infinite number of notification settings, from one vibration to three for each of the above.
But more than a gadget, the BlackBerry 8830 has changed my life -- a little bit. And it may change yours too, even if you never get one.
First, I will admit that the urge to check a buzzing BlackBerry is irresistable. Steward Mader (no idea who he is, really -- just the author of an interesting post) expresses a common observation among the BlackBerry crowd:
I was out to dinner the following Saturday night, and directly witnessed the effect of tethering people with BlackBerries. While we were out for dinner, a couple sat down at the table next to us, obviously on a second (or maybe third) date. Throught the next hour, they both proceeded to check their BlackBerries about every 5-10 minutes. ... There were multiple times when one or the other would reach for their BlackBerry while in mid conversation, and just start spining the scroll wheel while the other was still talking. ("My pocket vibrates, therefore I am. Would DesCartes agree?")
This experience is nothing new to those who have tried talking to project managers whose BlackBerries are vibrating. Forget it, just wait until they're done glancing at the thing.
But there's an upside to all of this. One of the best things about using Google Reader (to read RSS feeds) is the application's complete mobility. Not only can you access Google Reader from any computer with Internet access, you can also access your feeds from, surprise, your BlackBerry. Google Reader has a special mobile version that works extremely well.
I'm using my BlackBerry more and more to read feeds. Throughout the day there are dozens of times where I'm in a waiting mode. Waiting for the bus to arrive. Waiting to cross the street. Waiting for the elevator to ascend to my floor. Waiting in line to pay for my lunch. Waiting for a meeting to begin. Waiting for the meeting to get interesting. Waiting for the light to change. Waiting in line at the grocery market to pay for my groceries. Waiting for my wife to finish doing her hair. Waiting for commercials to end. Waiting to fall asleep at night. Waiting to fully awaken in the morning. And so on. You get the point.
During many of these waiting moments, I'm checking my feeds on my BlackBerry. It's just so incredibly convenient to have them available in the moment I want to read them.
So how does this benefit you? It does, I promise. Unlike any other feedreader, Google Reader has a link at the bottom of each post that allows you to share the post.
This is an easy link to click on a BlackBerry. So I find myself sharing about 3-4 times as many posts as I normally do.
Even cooler, if you add me as a friend in Google Talk, you'll see my shared posts directly in your Google Reader, as shown in the following image.
How do you add a friend in Google Talk? Unfortunately it's not something you can do entirely on your own. I have to accept to be added as your friend (if you send the request, I will glady accept it).
Here are Google's instructions on adding friends:
If your eyes glazed over those instructions, just download Google Talk (if you haven't already), and click the Add button at the bottom. Then type my gmail address, firstname.lastname@example.org and invite me to be your friend.
Note: If you already see friends in your Google Talk, but you've never added them, realize that there's another way to add a friend: Email the same person a bunch of times and Google automatically adds him or her as your friend.
The next time you get annoyed at someone glancing at their BlackBerry, relax, it may be me sharing your post with other readers.
I can't end this post without mentioning two interesting sites: rssmeme and readburner. This sharing across the entire community of Google Reader users isn't going to waste. The shared posts are collectively aggregated and sorted. The most shared posts are grouped together, allowing you to more quickly identify good content on the net. It's distantly similar to Digg, but the "voting" is invisibly in the background.
If the categories on these two sites could be more micro, such as a Readburner for technical communication topics, it would really be powerful.
12/09 Update: Readburner is no longer a current site.
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.